Originally published October 01, 2015. Updated November 06, 2016.

With the release of iOS 9 and OS X El Capitan, Apple improved Notes so much that I feel comfortable moving from Evernote to Apple Notes.

What I Like About Apple Notes

In no particular order:

  • Encryption
  • Inline photos
  • PDF attachments
  • Voicemail attachments
  • Siri and Spotlight search, including attachments
  • Nice web links when shared from Safari

What I Want Added

This is a roughly ordered list; top 3 are top 3.

  • Web clipper: currently, sharing from Safari is only a link. Saving a nicely formatted version of a page to a note is tedious (open the Safari Reader view, select everything (Select All isn’t even an option in this view), copy, open Notes, paste, go through and restore formatting, then copy and paste each image you want to save).
  • Tags, tags, tags. Folders aren’t good enough.
  • Markdown support
  • Ability to send Mail messages to Notes
  • URL scheme for opening specific notes while in other apps
  • Get rid of the texture already!
  • Note annotation
  • Drawing mode integrated into the Note more, rather than being a tool separate from text
  • In-app PDF annotation: If I can do this in Mail on iOS, there’s no reason to leave it out of Notes. I think it’s more useful here, actually. This has been added, but can still be greatly improved with more, less cumbersome tools.
Looks like Evernote is having to restrain itself financially. Hopefully, this means they will also focus on their core note-taking product. Like John Gruber said on Daring Fireball:

the interface has always seemed so convoluted, I could never get into it. It looks like the result of a company that is focused on adding features, not focused on creating something well-designed.

He’s right on. They’ve been splitting their attention among too many side projects – besides Evernote, there’s Skitch, Penultimate, and Scanner. Instead of optimizing the core functionality, they added Context and Work Chat. I was paying, but I’ve left. Maybe now they’ll get on track and make something really fantastic.

Despite the hold Evernote should have when acting as one’s “everything bucket”, it hasn’t been good enough to keep me happy. Let me explain.

Note Entry

I do not like Evernote’s overly complicated way of creating a note. In the iOS app, you have five buttons responsible for creating notes:

  • Text
  • Camera
  • Photos
  • Reminder
  • List

Just as there already is on the All Notes screen, I want one note creation button button, a plus button, on the home screen. It opens the note editor and adds the note to your default notebook. After than, you can add anything you want to your note.

Tags

Evernote tags are a great, powerful organizational tool. But I wish that they took some inspiration from OneNote tags also. OneNote has tags like to do checkboxes, stars, exclamation points, and question marks that can all be added within a note to point out a specific section of the note. These tags become searchable so that you can see all your to do items, or all your unanswered questions. This would be a useful addition.

Right now, Evernote for iOS has these search fields:

  • Search Notes (Home and All Notes)
  • Search Notebooks (Notebooks)
  • Find Tags: (Tags)
  • Search for people or messages: Work Chat

Instead, I want: Search. One place to search everything: notes, notebook names, tags, people, messages, and locations for that matter. The only secondary search that seems necessary is searching within a note and its attachments, once you’ve opened the note.

Other desired improvements

  • Alphanumeric password protection option per notebook
  • Greater stylistic controls: page color, fonts, font styles, ability to insert tables, and sketching/handwriting.
  • PDF highlighting that follows text (such as that in PDF Expert), rather than freeform.
  • If I record audio in a note, I should be able to simultaneously take notes, then later play back both the audio and notes, in sync.
  • Rather than displaying News & Tips and Market on the Home screen, put them under Settings, and once I become a Premium subscriber, don’t keep showing the button.

What I Like About Evernote

  • Custom tags
  • Universal app: this means feature parity between iPhone and iPad, which is important.
  • Notes tagged with GPS location
  • Work Chat
  • Annotation of images and PDFs: Evernote has far more options. OneNote has pen tools.
  • Presentation mode: even though I’ve never needed it

Final Words

It seems like some unneeded complexity has crept into the app. Multiple ways to start a note, and multiple places to initiate a search, could be simplified. I hope to see such improvements.

While I definitely value a handwritten journal, I like to keep a digital log of some things. Momento for iPhone is great at pulling data from a variety of social networks, however, it is not available for iPad or Mac. Evernote is accessible on a variety of platforms, but does not have a stock way to pull in data from social networks.

Using IFTTT, we can address Evernote’s shortcoming. My goal is have a note for each day containing all my social media activity, contained inside a particular Evernote notebook.

Steps

0. Evernote: Create a notebook

I’m calling mine Captain’s Log. Call yours whatever you wish.

1. IFTTT Recipe to create new note

Create a recipe with the following trigger: Date & Time > Every day at. I chose 05:00.
For your action, choose Evernote > Create a note. My notes are titled, “Captain’s Log”. In the body, I put, “Created: {{CheckTime}}“. Since {{CheckTime}} include both the date and time, do not put {{CheckTime}} in the title unless you want a new note for each item.

IFTTT Recipe: 1/5: create new note at 05:00 daily connects date-time to evernote

2. Add Foursquare Check-ins to existing note

If Foursquare > Any new check-in then Evernote > Append to Note. Make sure you use the same exact note title and notebook as you did in Step 2.

IFTTT Recipe: 2/5: Add Foursquare check-ins to daily note connects foursquare to evernote

3. Add Instagram photos by you to existing note

If Instagram > New photo by you then Evernote > Append to Note. Use the same note title and notebook.
NOTE: You could use a similar recipe to add any photos or videos you like, etc.

IFTTT Recipe: 3/5: Add Instagram Photos to daily note connects instagram to evernote

4. Add tweets and retweets by you to existing note

If Twitter > New tweet by you then Evernote > Append to Note. Use the same note title and notebook. I’ve included retweets and @replies in the trigger. I’m thinking about changing that to just @replies.

IFTTT Recipe: 4/5: Add tweets to daily note connects twitter to evernote

5. Add Twitter mentions of you to existing note

If Twitter > New mention of you then Evernote > Append to Note. Use the same note title and notebook.

IFTTT Recipe: 5/5: Add Twitter mentions of you to daily note connects twitter to evernote

Tips

You may want to tweak the body of each action to fit your journal style better. For example I modified my Foursquare recipe so that “I went to” precedes the venue name. Since the shout is included after the first sentence, I can use it to include any notes about the place.

IFTTT has an iOS app, useful for building and modifying recipes.

You can do the same thing with an RSS feed (such as for your blog).

Adios, Momento for iPhone.